Monday, February 22, 2010

Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner

Yes, yet another overdue post, but little delayed but better late than never.

Every lunar New Year eve, my parents wake up at 7 a.m. and start preparing dinner. You read it right, not breakfast, not lunch but dinner. This special occasion is commonly known in Cantonese as “chuin yuin fan”, which means reunion dinner and is the biggest event that happens in my parent’s home. Every year, there would be too much food for the 4 of them (or 5 of us, if I make it home) but according to mom, leftovers from the reunion dinner is very auspicious because we are bringing in the new year with plenty of good food and also means that we won't starve for the rest of the year. I don't know how true that is but cooking and eating mounts of food has always been great fun to me!

Here is the menu for this year’s reunion dinner.

1. Chow Tung Fun (dad’s specialty)
2. Dung Ku Pau Yu (braised mushroom and abalone)
3. Kai Lan Fa & Scallops (steamed broccoli and scallops)
4. Steam Pomfret
5. Hou See, Pai Kuat, Fatt Choy (braised pork ribs with oysters)
6. Gai Keok (braised chicken feet)
8. She-Chap Tiger Prawns
9. Sweet & Sour Dolly Fish
10. Pak Cham Gai (steam whole chicken)
11. Lap Cheong, Lap Ngap, Nga Ku (Chinese sausage and arrowroots)
12. Lotus Root Soup
13.Curry Chicken
14. Laichi and Longan (for dessert)

Sauces used for CNY cooking
The many sauces used.

Lou Hei
Lou hei dish

Lou Hei!
Lou hei!

 She-Chap Tiger Prawns
She-Chap Tiger Prawns

Steamed chicken
Steamed chicken

Dad's infamous dish: Tung Fun
Dad's infamous dish: Chow Tung Fun

Chinese sausages
Lap Cheong, Lap Ngap, Nga Ku (Chinese sausage and arrowroots)

PT Maids
Dad, mom and bro with his employees.

I’d like to share all of these recipes with you but unfortunately, I only had time to pick on dad’s brains for one recipe. This is a simple but delicious dish.

Dung Gu Pau Yu (braised mushroom and abalone) feed 4

1 can of abalone
8 med-size dried shitake mushrooms
A bunch of baby bak choy, slice in two
1 tbls oyster sauce
1 tsp chicken stock
1 tsp corn flour
2 tsp water (to mix into corn flour)

* Soak mushroom in water until soft, about 30 minutes.
* In a small pot, fill pot with water until half-full and bring to a boil.
* Drain water and squeeze the mushrooms to release excess water.
* Cut and discard mushroom stems.
* Add mushrooms into boiling water.
* In the same pot, add chicken stock, oyster sauce and let simmer until about quarter of the liquid is left.
* Add liquid (only liquid!) from canned abalone.
* Let simmer for a couple more minutes to allow mushrooms to soak up all the yummy juice.
* Remove mushroom from pot, and set pot aside because we need the liquid for the sauce.

* On a separate pot, boil water and add some salt and a bit of oil.
* Blanch bak choy until slightly cooked (should be lesser than 30 seconds, do not overcook!)
* Remove abalone from can and slice into thin slices.
* Arrange bak choy, mushroom and sliced abalone on a plate.

* Bring liquid from the first pot to a boil.
* Add salt or sugar to taste.
* In high heat, add corn flour and water mixture to thicken sauce.
* Pour sauce over cooked ingredients on plate.
* Serve immediately.

Abalone & Mushrooms
Abalone & Mushrooms

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Koh Lipe

I don’t care how last minute it is but if you suggest a trip to an island, I’m game!

Merv had the week off and Joe K was back in Malaysia for a month so what better way to spend Chinese New Year than to lay on the beach and soak up some UV rays. I thought a trip to Koh Lipe would cost close to nothing since it is literally the island next to Langkawi. An hour on the plane and another hour on the boat should be reasonably inexpensive right? Wrong.

How to get there
To maximize our stay, we took the earliest Air Asia flight out of Kuala Lumpur (LCCT) that got us to Langkawi at 8:30 a.m. After grabbing a bottle of Smirnoff at the airport duty-free store, we hopped into a cab and drove to Telaga Harbor only to find out that the 9:30 a.m. speedboat has been overbooked. We had to wait for the next (and last) boat that was departing at 2:30 p.m.

Goofing around in Langkawi

Roundtrip flight from Kuala Lumpur (LCCT) to Langkawi: RM569.00 (USD $168). Roundtrip speedboat from Telaga Harbor to Koh Lipe: RM 250.00 (USD $74).

Immigration at Koh Lipe
Waiting at the Koh Lipe Immigration for our passports

The speedboat took us to the the immigration center at Pattaya Beach where we waited patiently in the heat for our passport. After that, we then hired a long boat for a 3-minute boat ride to our hotel, which was on the other end of the beach about 1km away.

I’m pretty sure there are more economical ways to get to Koh Lipe. I read that you could take a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Had Yai and then a boat to Koh Lipe OR instead of taking a speedboat from Telaga Harbor, I eventually found out that you could hire a normal boat for much less. Also, during low seasons, budget flights from Kuala Lumpur (LCCT) to Langkawi cost as low as RM49 (USD $15).

Where to stay
Another disadvantage about traveling last minute (during high seasons) is that all good hotels are fully booked! Our first choice was Castaway Resort but since there were no rooms left there (or anywhere for that matter), we booked (and paid for – most hotels here asked for full payment upfront) a room at Sanom Resort. It was reasonably pleasant except that even though we were facing the beach, there was a lack of breeze so we had to keep the windows open the whole night and needless to say, we were attacked by seveteen thousand mosquitoes. I’m exaggerating. The room came with a mosquito net and fans but you get my point.

Castaway Resort
Lunch at Castaway Resort

Sanom Resort
Our room/hut at Sanom Resort

What to do
I was hesitant to write and share this trip because in my eyes, Koh Lipe is still a gem waiting to be discovered. It’s not as popular as Koh Phi Phi or Phuket but I can tell it will get there very soon. There were rows of resorts along the beach that was housing a few thousand tourists that looked like they needed to apply more sun block lotion. Popular activities include diving, snorkeling, beach massages, reading and lazing around.


Koh Lipe
Post lunch laze

Post Massage
Post-massage laze

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Malaysian Chinese Wedding - morning session

I admit, it’s shameful but I just attended my very first Malaysian Chinese wedding. Since this is totally new to me (as opposed to the my other friends who has attended each other's weddings in the past decade), naturally, next to the bride and groom, I was the most excited and also the most clueless person at the wedding.

Waiting to be wed
Foong, the bride woke up at 4 a.m. to prep for this.

The chee-muis.

As friends of the bride, I was part of the chee-muis or sisterhood. Chee-muis were summoned to be at bride's house by 7 a.m. on the wedding day where the first of two tea ceremony sessions would take place and before the arrival of the groom and his heng-dais or brothers.

And the groom and his heng-dais arrive...
45 minutes late but the groom and his heng-dais finally arrived with a lot of honking in 8 cars and a few "goodies".

Goodies include a whole roasted pig.

Arrival of the groom and his "dai kam che"
This is the dai kam che, I guess you could say she pretty much ran the show. Her noisy, high-pitched and high-volume voice gave me a headache but her energy level is impressive!

It's customary for chee-muis to hinder the groom from entering her home by testing his love for his soon-to-be wife. Some obstacles that the chee-muis came up with includes eating a 4-flavored sandwich; flavors include sweet (honey), sour (lemon pulp), spicy (wasabi) and bitter (Nescafe instant coffee powder) each representing experiences in life, washed down with some wasabi tong-yuen (rice balls, more spice for life!) and “lip-passing seaweed”.

Tasting the 4-flavored sandwich
Keith, the groom tasting the yummy 4-flavored sandwich. Can you see the wasabi oozing out of the sandwich?

Tasting the 4-flavored sandwich
Heng-dais had to help out.

Wasabi tong-yuen
Keith feeding the heng-dais spicy wasabi tong-yuen.

passing the seaweed
Passing of the seaweed.

Chee-muis' ang pow
The games are followed by some heavy angpow (red packets) negotiation (we’re talking about real money here!) and some sweet public confessions from the groom.

Keith and Jessie
After about an hour of proving his love for her, the chee-muis unlocked the door and the groom saw his wife for the first time and followed by the many, many hours of tea-pouring to the elderly and the ancestors.

Smokeless joss-sticks
Smokeless joss sticks.

Click here for more pictures taken during the morning session.